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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Serenity now on cruise ships from secret nooks, private dinners -- even romance under the stars

   Out to Sea cruise column for Dec. 14/13

   (c) By Jim and Barb Fox

   When you’re cruising with a few hundred or several thousands of your closest friends, sometimes there’s the urge to have some alone time.
   Today’s cruise ships have the solution with special spaces for seclusion seekers.
   These intimate spots allow cruisers to combine the convenience, comforts and choices of a megaship with the feeling of sailing on a private yacht, says Christine Duffy of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
   They’re designed for such things as private dining, sunning, small gatherings – and even romance.

Two types of private cabanas are offered seaside on Holland America Line cruise ships. (Barbara Fox photo)
   Secret nooks
   Even on the largest ships that carry 5,000 passengers, there are escapes from the hustle and bustle.
   Cruisers looking for quiet times and personalized service “can get this from a concierge-level cabin with its own lounge or by having a romantic dinner for two under the stars in a secret nook of the ship,” Duffy said.
   Ships of all sizes are adding additional balconies that are among the most popular privacy feature.
   The Royal Princess has balconies on all outside cabins and a top-deck pool with a water-and-light show and Movies under the Stars.
   The new Royal Princess has balconies on all outside cabins while Disney Cruise Line’s newest ships have verandahs on 70 percent of staterooms and suites.
   A novel idea is Royal Caribbean’s refurbished Navigator of the Seas will have “virtual” balconies – LED projection screens showing live images taken by exterior cameras in the less-pricey interior cabins.
   Club sections, similar to luxury hotel concierge floors with upgraded services and intimate lounges, are available widely.
   Holland America Line’s Neptune Lounge and Oceania Cruises’ Executive Lounge offer continental breakfast, coffee, tea and snacks throughout the day, big-screen TVs and concierge services.

   Serenity now
   Along with hidden hot tubs, tree houses and adult-only areas, ships are adding fun, new twists on serenity.
   The Hideaway on Celebrity Silhouette and Reflection resembles an avant-garde tree house with cozy suspended “nests” and pods.
   Seabourn’s Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest have the top-deck Sun Terrace, with double sun-beds, and secluded whirlpool spas on all its ships.
   Private retreats include MSC Yacht Club’s private pool, solarium, restaurant and butler-serviced suites.
   The Haven on Norwegian Cruise Line has butler-serviced cabins surrounding a private two-storey courtyard with pools, whirlpools, massage room, restaurant, bar and concierge lounge.
   Cabanas that can be rented include the Alcoves on Celebrity Silhouette and Reflection with food and chilled towels while an attendant can arrange spa treatments, meals and other services.
Private cabanas at sea on Holland America Line ships. (Barbara Fox photo)
   Holland America’s “Cabana Club” offers airy, tented cabanas with plush upholstered seating where guests receive bathrobes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, champagne and a pre-loaded iPod.
   Adults-only areas include Disney’s Quiet Cove Pool and Cove Bar for sunbathing, swimming and soaking in a hot tub overlooking the ocean.
   Royal Caribbean’s glass-canopied Solarium pool area and cafe has cantilevered whirlpools jutting out over the sea
   Carnival Cruises Lines’ Serenity for adults features plush lounge chairs, bar and food service, whirlpools and soothing music.

   Tables for two
   Exotic dining spaces set the scene for personal evenings and special occasions.
   The M/s Paul Gauguin offers private gourmet dining on the watersports marina at a table set with white linen, fine china and crystal glasses along with Polynesian entertainment.
   Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and Marina have the Privee dining room with plush decor while Crystal Cruises’ Vintage Room offers multi-course wine and food pairings at a private tasting table.
Constantin is preparing to serve wine on the Caribbean Princess at a Chef’s Table private tasting dinner. (Jim Fox photo)
   Princess Cruises’ Chef’s Table is a multi-course private tasting dinner paired with selected wines for up to 10 people.

   Go clubbing
   After-dinner lounges and piano bars are often a tranquil oasis or lively spots such as the B.B. King Blues Club on Holland America ships.
   Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has Churchill’s, a 12-seat salon for cigar and pipe smokers.
   Pulse on the Crystal Serenity and Luxe on the Crystal Symphony are for quiet dancing, karaoke and relaxed conversation.
   Disney Fantasy’s Ooh La La is a French boudoir-style club while Disney Dream’s Pink is a small, upscale cocktail lounge.

   Read a good book, lately?
   Many cruisers enjoy passing the time by getting caught up on a few good books.
   Ship libraries offer quiet yet sociable spots for reading, writing and board games.
   Holland America’s Explorations Cafe looking out over the sea combines a library, Internet centre and bistro for lattes and pastries.
   Azamara Club Cruises’ Drawing Room has a collection of lifestyle and travel books while Cunard’s Queen Mary 2’s library has about 10,000 books, audio books and publications.
   The find out more about cruising, go to CLIA’s website: cruising.org


Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at outtosea50@hotmail.com
For more Out to Sea trip tips: http://outtoseatravel.blogspot.ca


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